Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"

See other formats


HISTORY    AND    HUMAN    RELATIONS

considerable form of power. When Acton was con-
fronted with the claim that the historian should forgo
judgments on people, he betrayed on more than ofte
occasion the fact that what preoccupied him was the fear
that those bugbears of his, the wicked Ultramontanes,
would in such a case get off scot-free.

Indeed, when the historian asserts the case for moral
judgments on people, he is always bound to retreat and
turn it into a case for the land of verdict which pretends
to be an " approximation ". Only the latter—only the
judgment which is mixed with a .good deal of earth—
will serve the militant purposes of the man who has a
polemical intent- In any case, the lofty- heights of die
former are closed to the historian, whose apparatus and
evidence are not qualified to carry him to such rarefied
realms. The historian can never quite know men from
the iiiside—never quite learn the last secret of the
workings of inspiration in a poet or of piety in a devout
religious leader. For the same reason he can never
quite carry his enquiries to that innermost region where
the final play of motive and the.point of responsibility
can be decided. The historian fails to pierce the most
inward recesses and the essential parts of a man; and
all he can depend on is a general feeling for human
nature, based ultimately on self-analysis, but further .
enlarged in a general experience of life. Much can be
achieved by a constant practice of that land of imagina-
tive sympathy which works on all types and varieties of
men and acquires a certain feeling for personality. But
the only understanding we ever reach in history is but
a refinement, more or less subtle and sensitive, of the

116